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USC students offer telehealth help

Posted: 6am 12 May 2020

Are you struggling with home schooling, working from home or being isolated as an older member of the community due to COVID-19 restrictions?

USC students are using technology to help those in our community doing it tough. They’re offering a free program to help parents and children struggling with home learning, another providing nutritional advice to those eating badly while in iso or working from home, and telephone support services for older residents feeling isolated.

Coping Kids program

Since late March, provisionally-registered psychologists who are studying to become clinical psychologists have been running the free Coping Kids program via phone or Zoom video conferencing.

USC Master of Psychology (Clinical) Program Co-ordinator Associate Professor Helen Stallman says many parents are already noticing their children becoming worried and upset as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Children thrive on certainty so, when their day-to-day life changes, they are likely to become more emotional and struggle to explain why,” Dr Stallman says.

“It can be really challenging for parents to know what to say or do when their child is upset and their behaviour becomes confronting.

“The Coping Kids program is five weekly sessions where not only the parent is taught new strategies to implement, but also armed with new ways to help their child manage their own behaviour and emotions long term.”

Dr Stallman says the program is of equal benefit to the students training to become clinical psychologists.

“Under normal circumstances this would have been run as a face-to-face program, but we have changed to be able to provide the sessions via telehealth, which is an excellent opportunity for our cohort to become leaders in their field in this mode of clinical delivery,” she explains.

To register interest in the free program, email psychologyclinic@usc.edu.au or phone on 5459 4514.

Free nutrition advice

Telehealth technology is also allowing final-year Nutrition and Dietetics students at USC to offer free consultations to clients in the comfort of their own homes.

The USC Nutrition and Dietetics Clinic is using Zoom video conferencing to provide support to people in isolation on topics from healthy grocery shopping to boosting immunity, all under the supervision of an accredited practising dietitian.

USC Nutrition and Dietetics clinical co-ordinator Tania Wiesmayr-Freeman says telehealth technology has created a win-win situation for clients and for students, who are required to complete 10 weeks of supervised consultations in order to graduate.

“It’s great that our students can complete their courses using the newest health technologies, but there are actually huge upsides to telehealth for the patients too,” Tanya says.

“In fact, people can sit in the comfort of their own homes, have a cup of coffee and even check their pantry and fridge while they are gaining advice about how to improve their eating habits.”

Tanya says people spending more time at home due to government restrictions around COVID-19 could reassess their relationship with food.

“Being at home actually offers a great opportunity to look at what we are eating, how we plan and shop for groceries, how we are snacking and how we are encouraging our kids to eat healthily,” she says.

“Our students will also provide clients with a planning tool so they can think about what is in their pantries already and what they really need before they go to the supermarket.”

To book an initial one-hour telehealth consultation with a final-year USC Nutrition and Dietetics student (supervised by an accredited practising dietitian) email shssclinics@usc.edu.au.

Tania Wiesmayr-Freeman’s tips for healthy eating in isolation

#1. Limit buying unhealthy snacks and shop once a week. If it’s not in your pantry, you can’t eat it.

#2. Set times and enjoy eating together. This minimises mindless eating.

#3. If you want to look after your immune system, get rid of highly processed foods and saturated fats, which are inflammatory. Consider the Mediterranean diet.

#4. Home isolation is a good time to learn new ways of using food. Look up a new recipe that uses vegetables in a new way.

#5. Get the kids involved in cooking. They are more likely to eat the healthy foods they have helped cook.

#6. Don’t expect to be perfect with home cooking. It’s okay to have takeaway food once in a while. But once a week is better than five times a week.

#7. Seek support. Change takes time and getting informed advice can help.

Support for older people

Isolated older people facing visitor restrictions during the global pandemic are being invited to book a weekly chat with USC Counselling students.

The USC Counselling and Wellbeing Clinic has partnered with aged care health and wellbeing provider ComLink to offer the Tele-Friends program, a weekly phone or video connection for clients seeking support and companionship.

ComLink is now offering tele-health services online and via 3487 0780 (North Brisbane).

Master of Counselling program co-ordinator Dr Mark Pearson says the final-year students have received evidence-based training on how to help boost resilience and would be closely supervised by qualified clinical counsellors during the calls.

“Our students know how to converse in a way that lifts spirits and enhances wellbeing at a time when people are feeling particularly isolated or lonely,” Dr Pearson explains.

“The plan is that they will develop an ongoing relationship with an older person and arrange a certain time each week for the call.

“These students know the importance of really hearing what someone is saying and letting them share their worries, but also when to turn the conversation to positive memories and to remembering times when clients have coped well in the past, and how they can do so again.”

Dr Pearson says many older people have clear memories of tough times, including World War II, and can be gently reminded how they had found the resilience to cope.

ComLink CEO Feda Adra says research shows isolation can have a major impact on older Australians and vulnerable and lonely people, so it is important to maintain connection.

The USC Counselling and Wellbeing Clinic is also offering tele-health counselling services to the community and 0458 811 220 or counsellingclinic@usc.edu.au on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Want to read more about how the community is helping those in need? Head to our blog

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